Tom Coughlin's game plan for filling an opening on his coaching staff was as thorough as any his team produces for an opponent during the NFL season.
"I spent a lot of time, talked to a lot of coaches, talked to a lot of people, some personnel people about some of the candidates that were out there," Coughlin said.
In the end, Coughlin's search led him back home. The Giants announced today that Sean Ryan, who had coached the team's wide receivers the previous two seasons, will now coach the quarterbacks. He replaces Mike Sullivan, who left soon after the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator. Kevin M. Gilbride is the new wide receivers coach. He spent the last two years as the offensive quality control coach.
Gilbride follows the same path taken by Ryan, who switched from quality control to wide receivers in 2010.
"Continuity is important," Coughlin said. "It's not that I don't think there are some talented people out there. But I do think that these two are very talented and the best approach we could possibly take would be to continue to support our players at those positions with people who are products of the system.
"You would like to take people that are in the system, that understand the system, understand how we work, are very comfortable with the organizational scheme that we use in preparation. What we have here in Sean Ryan and Kevin Gilbride were two young coaches, one being Sean, who had started out as a quality control coach, was very impressive in that role, and then was elevated to the wide receiver position, in which he did an outstanding job. Young Kevin Gilbride came in here as a quality control offensive assistant and his energy level, his enthusiasm, his overall optimism, the positive way that he attacks every job, and the importance of how well he performed his job – which makes everybody else's job easier on offense – because the information that he puts forth is accurate. I really came to the conclusion that this was best for us."
Both Ryan and Gilbride – the son of offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride – believe the assignment changes will be seamless, largely because of their familiarity with each other.
"The two things that I think will make this a good working relationship are, obviously, I've been in that chair, moving from his job to the wide receivers," Ryan said. "I know what challenges he'll face and I can at least give him advice as to what I did and he'll have to decide how he wants to go about his job. He'll do things his way. But also he was in the wide receiver meeting room for the last two years. He was working with the wide receivers. They know him, they're comfortable with him. I know him, I worked with him on a daily basis. The wide receiver job and the quality control job are pretty closely related. So I've been working with Kevin on a daily basis for two years. We have a good working relationship, so I think it's really going to help the change."
"I think that's a big advantage for us," Gilbride said. "That's what happened last time – Sean moved from quality control to receivers and Sully trained him in what his responsibilities would be at the wide receiver position. Sean trained me at the quality control position. It's the same transition. When the new quality control coach comes in I'll train him. Sean will train me on the receivers position and we'll go from there."
Ryan and Gilbride were coaches for an offense that ranked eighth in the NFL in 2011, including fifth in passing yards. The Giants scored 394 points, the ninth-highest total in the NFL.
"Our coaches do a great job of communicating among themselves," Coughlin said. "Kevin (the offensive coordinator) has demonstrated great patience with these young guys. That's been important for me. They're constantly checking with him to be sure the terminology is right and how it's being explained is correct. And that is something that must be continued, that kind of an open communication policy from each position through the coordinators so everyone speaks with the same language. That was very critical to me."
Ryan, of course, will now take a significant role in the continued development of Eli Manning, who led the Giants to their second Super Bowl victory in five seasons while setting franchise records with 589 passes, 359 completions and 4,933 yards.
"I'm excited about Sean Ryan being the quarterback coach," Manning said. "He's a guy that's been in this system, worked his way from the ground up and spent two years with the receivers. He's a young guy (Ryan turns 40 on May 1) who is energetic. He's driven to continue to learn. I know he's going to get prepared for drills. I got a chance to talk to him yesterday and will continue to talk to him when we get back for the offseason program on what I want to work on, what I need to improve on and how we can get on the same page. Coach Sullivan and I did a great job communicating. That's something that's very important with a quarterback coach and I know we'll have great communication and a great work ethic. Coach Ryan and I have worked closely together since he was with the receivers. I'm excited about him and I know we'll have a great relationship. We shouldn't miss a beat."
Manning is entering his ninth Giants season and Ryan will be his fourth position coach, following Gilbride (who held the position before becoming coordinator), Chris Palmer and Sullivan. Coughlin said the changes haven't adversely affected Manning because the offensive system has remained intact.
"The system stays the same, but the people that we have provided as the direct teacher/coach of the quarterback position have been people that have been in the system," Coughlin said. "Even when Chris Palmer came here (in 2007), he was a product of the system, too. The first quarterback coach was Kevin Gilbride, so when Palmer left Sullivan made that move and he did an outstanding job. The communication between he and Eli was outstanding. And, of course, the quarterbacks coach and the quarterback work tirelessly with the receivers. So there has been great communication between Mike Sullivan and Sean Ryan and Eli."
Ryan, who joined the Giants' staff in 2007, coached quarterbacks in college and is excited to work with Manning.
"It's a tremendous opportunity," Ryan said. "He's obviously one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL and to have that experience to work with him – but even beyond his talent, the things that excite me the most are his professionalism and his work ethic and what he brings on a daily basis. I think it's special to have a player like that and be able to work with a player like that that you know is going to give above and beyond what is expected. I think somebody who is that eager and wants to be that good and wants to get better like that, as a coach there is nothing more you can ask for than to work with a player who is that committed to getting himself better."
Gilbride is similarly energized about working with a group of receivers that includes Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
"They're incredibly talented and the great thing about those guys is they have such different skill sets, but they can be incredibly dynamic in what they do," Gilbride said. "If they continue to develop, they can be dominant receivers in this league for a long time and that's what's exciting – good, young, talented wide receivers who bring very specific and different skill sets to the table. It helps our offense to function."
And that really is what Coughlin focused on most when considering these moves – how best to keep the offense producing at a high level.
"You're always researching and studying and looking to add things to your package," Coughlin said. "But whatever we do come up with is going to come from the same background in terms of the eyes that the coaches see things with and how it applies to us. We will continue to analyze things from the standpoint of knowing our system and what's needed to help us."
Coughlin said he continues to interview candidates for the two remaining openings on his staff – the offensive quality control position vacated by Gilbride and assistant offensive line coach, which was held by Jack Bicknell, Jr. before he was hired as the Kansas City Chiefs' new line coach.